Memories of Old Camp Billy Gibbons by George Day

Elmo Letbetter was the driver on the first trip to camp. Troop 8, sponsored by the First Baptist Church, Brownwood, had a long trailer hooked up to a pickup. We piled into the back of the pickup and into the trailer loaded with bedding and tents. We stopped at Algerita, between San Saba and Richland Springs, and ate some of the best Alberta peaches I have ever eaten (and this is about 55 years later).

We were the first arrivals since WWII, summer of 1945, and as I remember it, we opened up the camp. This meant cutting weeds, clearing up a very dusty, musty dining hall and all done without electricity. It was very primitive.

Guy Quirl was the Scout Executive for the Comanche Trail Council. John Wood, the Texas Game Warden had a stalking contest in which he was the object.  Mr. Tesson had an archery set-up.

The 1946 trip was more eventful. Roy Curbow, a diesel mechanic, was a tough scoutmaster for Troop 8. Hilton Gilliam conducted Red Cross life saving courses. He nearly drowned Lloyd Corder, and me too for that matter, but did give us our senior life saving merit badges. I won the 100 yard free-style swimming race one week.

Gaither BrowningWe built the council ring, an Indian-like structure with a central fire. Mute scouts filed into the ring at night, as this was the final program of each day, sat and watched Gaither Browning perform and teach Indian dances and chants. At night and in the dark there was the occasional rattlesnake on the trail leading to the council ring. This reminds me of the time Charlie Allen, camp bugler, caught a grass snake and put it in a boy's sleeping bag. At about 10:30 PM, he came bursting out of the bag, broke his cot and knocked down the tent pole in his sudden exit. Oh, such fun!

One time, Rio Cox, an insurance salesman from Brownwood and a very fine man, came for a week as acting scoutmaster for Troop 8. He bragged on the superiority and strength of his fishing line. A scout obtained a quantity of carbide powder. Later our troop took off on a fishing and hiking trip up Brady Creek, led by Mr. Cox, still bragging about his fishing line. A little carbide was sprinkled over the line ever so gently when no one - well, nearly no one - was looking. You can guess the rest of the story. Mr. Cox, after casting his line time and time again, finally got a strike by a not too large a fish - and the line promptly broke. He couldn't understand that. Lamentations followed. Some of the powder had even gotten into his shoes and blistered his feet, so he came back into camp barefooted.

There was another time that four of us went on a hike up Brady Creek. As luck would have it, we discovered a 25-pound catfish that had been trapped in a pool of water. After bravely attacking and capturing the fish with a knife to the head, we strode back into camp lugging this fine prize. We were met by the game warden, Mr. Wood, who eyed us as only he could, and called Mr. Bums outside from the mess hall. Mr. Bums was the one-armed principal of Coggin Ward School and he ran the mess hall. More about him later; he was really a fine fellow.

Back to Mr. Wood. He said, "Boys, that fish has never seen a fishhook, has it?" He knew that it had not; we knew that it had not. We knew that he knew that we knew that it had not. We were soon to learn why that was important. It seems that it was a violation of the law to grapple catfish. Mr. Bums, of the kitchen, and Mr. Wood, of the law, felt compelled to hand out appropriate punishment for this vile act. They took the fish and placed us on KP and we washed pots and pans after supper, were up at 4:00 A.M. to do the morning pots and pans and then mopped up after dinner --lunch to Yankees. Needless to say, if we ever caught a fish thereafter in a like manner, it certainly was stuck with a fishhook. Lloyd Corder was one of the four. I think Harold Smith may have been one, but I cannot recall.

The Pig!I'll never forget Mr. Bums, who had a replica of a pig made of wood. At the end of each meal, he would walk around the mess hall looking for what was, in his opinion, the messiest table or a pigpen. When he eventually made his decision, which he loved to hide, he would swoop down upon the table, placing the pig upon it. Now this was not an idle thing. It had consequences, which, as you may have guessed, was KP -pots, pans, and dishes of the staff - but only for one meal. This charade tended to do two things -- make us eat carefully and with manners, and caused us to try to figure out a way to get the pig put on our enemy's table. No, not really an enemy, just someone who we thought should have it.

The better news is that Lloyd Corder, Jim White, myself and others did learn the Scout Oath, motto, good deeds, became Eagle scouts and members of an honor scout organization - the Order of the Arrow - and this training helped our future years in a positive way. We learned to help others and do a good deed each day, the best mental therapy there is.

This story was taken from the Brownwood High School Class of 1947 newsletter "The Roar of '47", newsletter #8, Fall, 1999, edited by Jim White.

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